Saturday, April 11, 2015

Indo-Pak Rescue Efforts Amid Yemen Crisis; MQM vs PTI in Karachi NA-246

Would humanitarian cooperation in Yemen help improve India-Pakistan bilateral ties? 

Is Yemen crisis defusing? 

Are hardliners like Iran MP Alireza Zakani adding fuel to the intense fires burning in 4 Middle Eastern countries? What role can Pakistani and Iranian moderates play to reduce growing risks of a broader Shia-Sunni sectarian war in the Muslim world? 

Has PTI's NA-246 challenge put MQM on the back-foot in Altaf Husain's stronghold around Azizabad, Liaquatabad, and Karimabad in Karachi? Is it the beginning of the end of MQM dominance in Karachi?

ViewPoint from Overseas host Misbah Azam ( discusses these and other questions with panelists Ali H CemendtaurFaraz Darvesh and Riaz Haq ( in Silicon Valley, California, USA.

Indo-Pak Rescue Efforts Amid Yemen Crisis; MQM vs PTI in Karachi NA-246 from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Role in Yemen Crisis

Gangs of Karachi

Iran-Saudi Proxy War

Viewpoint From Overseas Vimeo Channel

Viewpoint From Overseas Youtube Channel


Behram A. said...

America Has Abdicated Its Guiding Role in the Middle East to a Sectarian Arab Military Force

Riaz Haq said...

Behram: "America Has Abdicated Its Guiding Role in the Middle East to a Sectarian Arab Military Force"

Read Ali Khedery, ex-US advisor on Iraq, explain how the US helped Iran become dominant in the region by destroying Saddam and Taliban and then support sectarian Nouri al Maleki become prime minister. These US actions alienated the Sunni Arabs, made room for ISIS ad fueled sectarian conflict in Middle East.

Afreen said...

Ali Reza Zakani said: "The Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone. It will extend, following its success, into Saudi territories. The Yemeni-Saudi vast borders will help accelerate its reach into the depths of Saudi land"

The Iranian Rasa News Agency quoted Zakani saying to the Iranian parliament that Iran is passing through the phase of "grand jihad". He pointed out that this phase requires a special policy and a cautious approach because it may lead to many repercussions.

He said that Iranian officials should be informed as to what is taking place in the regional arena and acquaint themselves with political players that influence the region's states. He drew attention to the necessity of supporting movements that function within the Iranian revolution's framework in order to end oppression and assist the oppressed in the Middle East.

Zakani went on to say that prior to the victory of the Iranian Islamic revolution in Iran there were two fundamental currents that constituted the American axis in the region, explaining: "there was Saudi Islam and Turkish secularism. But after the success of the Iranian revolution the political equation in the region changed in Iran's favour. Today we are at the peak of our strength, we impose our will and our strategic interest on everyone in the region."

With regard to Yemen, Zakani considered the Yemeni revolution to be a natural extension of the Iranian revolution and predicted that 14 out of 20 Yemeni provinces will soon come under the control of the Houthis. Their influence will reach into Saudi Arabia itself. He said: The Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone. It will extend, following its success, into Saudi territories. The Yemeni-Saudi vast borders will help accelerate its reach into the depths of Saudi land"

Riaz Haq said...

Dubai — The UAE on Friday strongly condemned a Pakistani decision to stay out of the conflict in Yemen, rejecting Saudi demands for Islamabad to join its military coalition against Houthi rebels.

“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash tweeted after a unanimous resolution passed by a special session of Pakistan’s parliament.

The resolution, however, backed the government’s commitment to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory, which has so far not been threatened by the conflict.

Gargash said Pakistan is required to show a clear stand in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Arab Gulf cooperation Council, as contradictory and ambiguous views on this serious matter will have a heavy price to pay.

“This is nothing but another chapter of laggard impartial stand,” Gargash said, criticising identical views held by Turkey and Iran about the armed conflict in Yemen, as affirmed by the Turkish foreign minister, who had said a political way out of the crisis is the responsibility of Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries, Gargash added. “Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments,” Gargash said.

“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries, and the crisis is a real test for neighbouring countries.”

The Pakistan parliament resolution turned down long-standing ally Riyadh’s request for troops, ships and warplanes, saying: “Pakistan should play a mediating role and not get involved in fighting in Yemen.”

“Parliament of Pakistan...underscores the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” the resolution said.

“(Parliament) desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”

Saudi Mufti calls for youth conscription

Riyadh — The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Shaikh, who is also chairman of the senior scholars authority has called for military conscription of youth.

Shaikh Abdul Aziz said: “We must prepare our youth properly to become a shield for us in the holy war against the enemies of religion and the nation.”

In his Friday sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, he said: “We should well look after our youth and prepare them for enlistment, which will enable them dis-charge their duties effectively.”

“This step is important for our youth towards their religion and for protecting their homeland,” he said, adding that the nation should always be prepared to face enemies.

“We are leading a secure life, a boon that others envied us for,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz said and added that while we should be thankful to Allah for this mercy, our nation should remain alert to defend the religion and country through compulsory military training.

“We should be careful and cautious of the enemies who want to spoil our religion, morals and economy, as well as destroying our unity”, he said, adding that to face such chal-lenges, “we must prepare our youth militarily, intellectually and educationally”.

Riaz Haq said...

(Sectarian conflict in Pakistan) coincided with the onset of the Islamic Revolution of Imam Khomeini in Iran and the threat its “export” posed to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states across the Gulf.
Pakistanis invariably blame Saudi Arabia and Iran for the violence since the two countries funded and trained the partisans of this war. Both are aware that Pakistan was subjected to someone else’s “relocated” war. Much of the internal dynamic of this war remains hidden from public view. A kind of embarrassment over the phenomenon of Muslim-killing-Muslim has prevented Pakistanis from inquiring frankly into how the two hostile states were able to transplant their conflict in Pakistan.
Sectarian violence has drawn its strength from the past too. The schismatic past was concealed behind two important layers of governance. First, the Raj was able to almost completely uproot the Sunni-Shia confrontation during its tenure from 1857 to 1947. A refusal to recognise the jurisprudence of takfir (apostatisation) and a competent encoding of the Muslim Family Law, separating the two sects, almost buried the conflict that had its seeds in the 7th century.
The Pakistan Movement in India that resulted in the creation of Pakistan against the wishes of Great Britain and the secularists of India was spearheaded by the two sects together. The movement carried the promise of a finally successful coexistence and possible integration of the two sects. Early governance in Pakistan was in some ways an extension of the secular impartiality of the Raj. However, after Independence in 1947, two developments took place that sowed the seeds of sectarianism that were to bear fruit later on.
Pakistan began to look for its identity in the stance its representative political party, the All-India Muslim League, had adopted during its competition with the secular and much larger All-India National Congress. Because of the early military conflict with India in 1947, Pakistan’s nationalism began to coalesce positively around Islam and negatively around India. Its textbooks sought their exemplary personalities in historical Muslim “utopias” and imagined “golden ages” that highlighted the particularism of Muslim identity instead of its “liminal” cross-fertilisation with Hinduism at the cultural level.
Pakistani textbooks went back to pre-Raj days and selected periods of Muslim rule where pluralism was at its lowest, and highlighted instead the separation of Hinduism from Islam. (Liberal Mughal kings who treated the Hindus well also accepted the Shia as Muslims.) Most of this selection turned out to be sectarian. While it set Muslims and Hindus apart it also emphasised the conflict between Sunni and Shia communities. In the early period of Pakistan’s history, ignorance of the schism – or amnesia induced by the Raj interregnum – allowed this bias to go unnoticed.
During the Saudi-Iranian standoff in 1980, Pakistan was drawn to the Saudi side for a number of reasons. It had a large expatriate labour force stationed in the Arab Middle East, particularly in the region of the Gulf where the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was formed in 1980 to ward off the Iranian threat. Before 9/11, almost 80 percent of Pakistan’s “foreign remittances” were earned from this region. Saudi Arabia was also the most important ally – after the United States – in “frontline” Pakistan’s war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Nationalism Without A Nation
By Christophe Jaffrelot

Chapter 4 by Mariam Abou Zahab on sectarian conflict in Pakistan after the Iranian Islamic Revolution and Zia's Islamization in 1980s.

Iran funded scholarships for Pakistani rural Shia to study its version of Islam in Iran then return to Pakistan while Saudi Arabia funded sunni madrassas in Pakistan.'s%20sectarian%20agenda&f=false

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Seeks to Calm Relations With Gulf States Over #Yemen. #Iran #UAE #SaudiArabia via @business

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought to soothe relations with key Gulf allies after his country’s refusal to join a coalition of Sunni-led Muslim nations fighting in Yemen triggered a rift with trading partners that supply most of its oil.
“Pakistan does not abandon friends and strategic partners especially at a time when their security is under threat,” Sharif said Monday in a televised speech in Islamabad. “My government continues to follow the policy of fortifying and strengthening the bonds of friendship with the Gulf countries.”
His comments came after Anwar Mohammed Gargash -- second-in-charge at the United Arab Emirates’ foreign ministry -- said over the weekend that Pakistan would pay a “high cost” for its “contradictory and ambiguous stance.”
The spat shows the risks oil-dependent Pakistan faces in trying to avoid taking sides in the battle between Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, and the group of Arab nations. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. provide almost all of Pakistan’s oil, according to a petroleum ministry official who asked not to be identified because the data aren’t public.
Pakistan’s parliament passed a unanimous, though non-binding, resolution on April 10 declaring support for Saudi Arabia’s “territorial integrity,” but falling short of accepting a demand from Riyadh’s leadership to send ground, air and sea troops to fight the Houthis.
Pakistan’s benchmark KSE100 Index fell 0.3 percent Monday, partly in reaction to Gargash’s remarks.
‘Shoulder to Shoulder’
“Some concerns on the tension developing with U.A.E.,” Baryalay Arbab, head of equity at KASB Securities Ltd., wrote in an e-mail. “Good chunk of remittances come from the GCC,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, to which both Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. belong.
The Pakistani government has been in touch with Saudi Arabia and its allies in the GCC “to assure them that their disappointment was based on an apparent misinterpretation of parliament’s resolution,” Sharif said Monday. “Our firm assurance to our Saudi brothers is that we shall stand shoulder to shoulder with them.”
He reiterated that any violation of Saudi territorial integrity would provoke a “strong response” from Pakistan.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday had called Gargash’s remarks “threatening, unacceptable and an insult to the Pakistani nation,” according to a report in Dawn newspaper.
The April 10 parliamentary vote came shortly after Pakistan hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Islamabad. Saleh bin Abdul-Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic affairs minister, arrived in Pakistan’s capital late on Sunday for urgent talks on Yemen, the Dawn reported.
Besides oil, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. host several million Pakistanis who work in jobs like construction, making them the top providers of remittances. The emirates are also preferred destinations for Pakistanis to invest in real estate, according to Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, who heads the Pakistan-U.A.E. Business Council based in Karachi.
“We have commercial interests in the United Arab Emirates which we do not want to see hurt,” Baig said by phone. “A government delegation should go there and explain our stance and hold closed-door meetings to calm the U.A.E. government.”
Many Pakistani lawmakers said that picking sides would fuel sectarian conflict in the country, which is already fighting militants. While the majority of Pakistanis are Sunni, the nation is home to the most Shiite Muslims outside of Iran and Shiite mosques have been regular targets of terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent years.

Riaz Haq said...

Stratfor's George Friedman on US role in current Middle East regional conflict:

There are two varieties of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan. The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations. We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States moves between the four major regional powers — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — supporting one then another in a perpetual balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes in parallel with Iranian ground forces. In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi air strikes against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.

This is the essence of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.

We are now seeing the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance. A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The trick is to create situations where other countries want to do what is in the U.S. interest.

This endeavor is difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape other countries' behavior. It isn't the U.S. Department of Commerce but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid. The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used, they brought overwhelming power to bear.

I have been deliberately speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its power carelessly.


The current balancing act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out, but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.

Riaz Haq said...

From NY Times:

The news media, which previously treated the party (MQM) with caution, has aired criticism of the party. (Among those arrested was a Muttahida supporter charged with the murder of Wali Khan Babar, a prominent television journalist who was shot dead in his car in 2011.) And in the city’s political back rooms, senior Muttahida officials have begun to quietly consider the possibility of a new leader — an unthinkable idea until recently.

Continue reading the main story
“The fear factor is gone,” said a senior party official who, like several others, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.

But the upheaval has also brought worries of new instability in a city that is awash with armed groups. Noting that Karachi is in a “state of flux,” the newspaper Dawn warned in an editorial this month that “when the chips fall, they may not do so without considerable violence.”

The moves against Muttahida are part of a broader effort to stem a cycle of political and criminal violence that has left Karachi prone to Taliban infiltration in recent years. Militants disrupted election campaigning in 2013, leading to a crackdown that has broken several Taliban cells, according to police officials and ethnic Pashtun community leaders.

Now the authorities have turned their attention to the armed wings of the city’s political parties, of which Muttahida is by far the largest.

But few are writing off Mr. Hussain, a wily political player with a long record of survival, just yet.

For much of the 1990s, Mr. Hussain’s supporters waged a street war against the security forces in Karachi, only to ultimately re-emerge stronger than ever.

Since then, he has enjoyed unquestioned support from the city’s Mohajir population — mostly Urdu-speaking families that migrated from India in 1947 — by playing on their sense of grievance at the hands of local ethnic groups, creating a magnetic cult of personality in the process.

This time, however, the challenges also come from within. Mr. Hussain’s stewardship of the party has become increasingly erratic recently, several officials said.

In addresses to party rallies in Karachi, delivered over the phone from London (his usual mode of communication with the party faithful), he frequently appears to be under the influence of alcohol, they said.

During one lengthy tirade on March 30, Mr. Hussain publicly resigned his leadership and urged his followers to take up charity work, only to reappoint himself hours later.

“We never know if it’s going to be happy hour or sad hour,” said one senior official who privately advocated a change in leadership and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

To many, it seems clear that the Pakistani military, which has a long history of meddling in politics, is trying to engineer a change in leadership. Journalists say the videotaped accusations from Mr. Mirza, the death-row convict, bore the hallmarks of a military intelligence operation.

In political circles, the army has started to take informal soundings about a possible successor to Mr. Hussain, the same party official said.

“They want to keep the M.Q.M., but without Altaf or anyone directly associated with violence,” he said.

But experts warn that such a strategy is fraught with danger. “If the M.Q.M. implodes, what will happen to Karachi?” said Laurent Gayer, author of “Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City,” a recent book on Karachi. “It seems that few people are thinking about the consequences of a militarized, fragmented party.”


Mr. Hussain looked unsteady as he pushed through reporters at the entrance to the London police station on Tuesday. He has said a large sum of money found at his house — about $650,000, party officials say — came from legitimate political donations.

Riaz Haq said...

Former #Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif to lead '#Muslim #NATO' Military Alliance

Pakistan’s retired army chief has agreed to become the first commander of the “Muslim Nato”, a fledgling military alliance of mostly Sunni Islamic states led by Saudi Arabia.

The announcement led to a flood of criticism of Raheel Sharif, a general who until recently had been lauded for his three years leading Pakistan’s half a million-strong army.

The Pakistani defence minister, Khawaja Asif, revealed on television that Sharif would become the first commander-in-chief of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a proposed coalition of 39 countries that will have its headquarters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The IMAFT was announced in late 2015 as a foil against Islamic State and terrorism in general but it has not been supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional nemesis.

Islamabad has long struggled to find a balance between Saudi Arabia, a rich patron that is home to thousands of Pakistani expatriate workers, and neighbouring Iran that hopes to sell gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Analysts say the decades-long standoff between Sunni Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shia Iran has helped fuel sectarian conflict in Pakistan.

Both countries have been accused of supporting their own favoured militant groups in Pakistan, where the Shia minority has been the target of relentless attacks.

In 2015, Pakistan declined to join military operations against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen despite relentless pressure from Saudi Arabia, which has led the intervention in its impoverished neighbour.


The decision not to come to the aid of a close ally that a year earlier had bolstered Pakistan’s finances with a $1.5bn gift was widely praised by analysts who feared involvement in Yemen would exacerbate sectarian tensions at home.

But the plan to allow one of the most esteemed army chiefs in Pakistan’s history to take up command of IMAFT has been met with widespread criticism on social media.

The Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, a Shia political group, expressed concern over the appointment, which it urged Sharif to turn down.

Some hardline Sunni groups, including the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, said they fully supported the development.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani defence analyst, cautioned that the IMAFT was not yet operational and it was unclear whether it would follow the model of Nato or something more like the United Nation’s peacekeeping operations.

“But there is a question of how far this force would be a non-partisan force,” he said. “At the moment it appears to be dominated by conservative Arab kingdoms so Iran, Iraq and Syria will not welcome it.”

He cautioned against Pakistan being dragged into conflicts at the behest of others.

“Pakistani troops have been in Saudi Arabia since the mid-1960s but the guiding principle has always been that they would serve only within the territorial boundaries of Saudi Arabia. If you create a kind of force of so many countries then one day the Saudis might want it to go to Yemen or Syria.”

Sharif became highly popular after an army crackdown on the Pakistani Taliban led to sharp falls in violence and an army-led public relations campaign that contrasted him with the country’s civilian leaders, who are widely viewed as ineffectual and corrupt.

He retired in November despite fevered speculation that he would be given an extension or elevated to the position of field marshal.